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Published: Sunday, 6/6/2004

Former actor, future president stumped often in northwest Ohio

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
President Ronald Reagan was given a Bowling Green State University football jersey during his visit to campus on Sept. 26, 1984. Spectators began arriving before dawn for the speech. President Ronald Reagan was given a Bowling Green State University football jersey during his visit to campus on Sept. 26, 1984. Spectators began arriving before dawn for the speech.
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Ronald Reagan's last hurrah on the campaign trail in northwest Ohio was Oct. 19, 1988, when 15,000 gathered outside the Wood County Courthouse in Bowling Green for the occasion.

The 40th president of the United States wasn't stumping for himself. He had three months and a day left in his final term.

Instead, during a 25-minute talk he boosted the presidential candidacy of George H. Bush, his vice president, and put in endorsements for George Voinovich, who was running for U.S. Senate; congressional candidate Paul Gillmor, and Betty Montgomery and Randy Gardner, who were running for the Ohio General Assembly.

It was Mr. Reagan's ninth visit to northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan during his political career. The day of his Bowling Green visit, Mr. Reagan appeared at St. John Arena in Columbus and a fund-raiser in Cincinnati. In Bowling Green that fall day, the President sounded familiar themes, decrying liberals in Congress and advocating tough penalties for criminals.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan campaign in Levis Square before the Ohio primary during a trip to Toledo on May 30, 1980. Ronald and Nancy Reagan campaign in Levis Square before the Ohio primary during a trip to Toledo on May 30, 1980.
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"George [Bush] and I believe that a crack dealer with a machine gun who murders a police officer should receive the death penalty,'' Mr. Reagan said.

It wasn't the most auspicious swan song. Loudspeakers were inaudible in many locations and two-thirds of the spectators could not see the podium. Some chatted among themselves; others simply left in frustration before the end of his speech.

In contrast, Mr. Reagan appeared before an enthusiastic crowd of 4,000 Sept. 26, 1984, at Bowling Green State University's Anderson Arena. Spectators began arriving in the predawn hours to get a spot inside.

Perhaps the best-remembered of the Ohio visits was his campaign stop on Oct. 12, 1984, when Mr. Reagan addressed a Perrysburg crowd from the rear platform of the Ferdinand Magellan, a Pullman car rebuilt in 1943 for presidents and used during whistle stops, most notably by Harry Truman.

While traveling between Dayton and Perrysburg, Mr. Reagan spoke in Sidney, Lima, Ottawa, and Deshler. Along the way, thousands lined the tracks as the presidential train passed through the towns of Vandalia, Tipp City, Troy, Piqua, Swanders, Anna, Botkins, Wapakoneta, Cridersville, Fort Shawnee, Cairo, Columbus Grove, Leipsic, Belmore, Weston, and Tontagony.

More than 20,000 people showed up when Mr. Reagan rolled into Perrysburg during a trip through the state in 1984. More than 20,000 people showed up when Mr. Reagan rolled into Perrysburg during a trip through the state in 1984.
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A crowd of 20,000 greeted Mr. Reagan as the train pulled into Perrysburg. Toledo Mayor Donna Owens introduced the President, who repeated the 25-minute speech he had given at each of the stops. As a passenger in the lead car of the presidential motorcade, Ms. Owens lobbied the President's campaign manager for a stop in Toledo. It was not to be. The President continued journeys into Ohio until the weekend before Election Day, but Toledo Express Airport was his only venture into Lucas County.

Four years earlier, Mr. Reagan did make campaign appearances in Toledo as he fought for the Republican presidential nomination. He spoke to 240 party faithful during a GOP fund-raising breakfast in the Commodore Perry Motor Inn. He then joined a campaign parade, which included three elephants and antique cars carrying Republican politicians, for the trip from the hotel to Levis Square at St. Clair Street and Madison Avenue.

In the fall campaign, Mr. Reagan campaigned in Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Marietta, Youngstown, and Steubenville.

He used a one-day trip to Lima, the Akron-Canton area, and Flint, Mich. - all hit hard by layoffs in the auto industry - to sound a central theme of his campaign: that the Carter administration's policies were to blame for high inflation and high unemployment rates.

In 1976, Mr. Reagan ran unsuccessfully against incumbent President Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination. He spent only one day campaigning in Cleveland, Dayton, and Cincinnati.

Mr. Reagan, in nonpresidential election years, attended a fund-raising event in May, 1983, for the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs in Ashland, Ohio. The year after his unsuccessful 1976 campaign, Mr. Reagan went to Napoleon for a Republican rally in July. In November, 1977, he spoke about reducing government intervention and promoting free enterprise during a speech at Hillsdale College.

In 1968, he visited Cleveland on a five-state fund-raising tour, testing his popularity for the GOP nomination. Richard Nixon received the nomination and was elected president.

The year before, Mr. Reagan visited Cleveland to help raise money. But the visit was seen as significant because he was met at the airport by Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes, who had not met presidential hopefuls Mr. Nixon and Michigan Gov. George Romney when they visited.

Mr. Reagan visited the Toledo area during his acting career.

In May, 1960, Mitch Woodbury's "I've Heard" column in The Blade reported that the actor stopped at the Holiday Inn on Reynolds Road. The future president was nearing the end of his employment by General Electric Co., which included being host of the television program General Electric Theater. "Going into the bar, Mr. Reagan ordered a martini from bartender Johnny Kalentic. He took a sip and voiced his approval," Mr. Woodbury reported.

"Then, unprompted, he took a $10 bill from his wallet, autographed it, and handed it to the surprised mixologist in appreciation."



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